Will the Supreme Court Hear an Immigration Case this Summer?

April 4, 2014

952313_gavel.jpgThe Supreme Court of the United States (also referred to as SCOTUS) is the highest court in the nation. Once the Supreme Court makes a decision on a case, the case is closed - there is no possibility of another court rehearing the case and coming to a different decision. Therefore, in many ways, any decision made by the Supreme Court justices is final.

Because the Supreme Court is the court of last resort, and its justices are the ultimate decision makers, the Court usually only consents to hear cases that hold very important outcomes for the entire country, such as the case involving the Obama Administration healthcare mandate and cases involving the right to bear arms, the right to free speech, and other constitutional issues. The Supreme Court does not typically hear many immigration cases as these cases usually only affect just the individual bringing the case (called the plaintiff) or a small segment of the U.S. population.

However, the Court may decide to hear a case involving immigrants' rights in the near future. The case is called Roxana Santos vs. the Frederick County Board of Commissioners.

Case Background

The Plaintiff, Ms. Roxana Santos, is an El Salvadorian national and state of Maryland resident who initially entered the U.S. in 2006 and resided in the U.S. without immigration authorization.

According to the case documents, in October 2008, Ms. Santos was approached outside of her place of employment by two Frederick County police officers. The officers had driven past Ms. Santors while conducting their routing sweeps of the area. After approaching her, the officers asked Ms. Santos if she spoke English. She replied that she did not speak English and the officers continued their questioning of her through the use of simple phrases and questions.

During the course of the officers' questioning, Ms. Santos gave them her El Salvadorean national ID card. The officers ran her identity information through their police station dispatcher which brought back a "hit" on her name, indicating that there was an outstanding warrant for her immediate deportation from the United States.

After receiving this hit on Ms. Santos, the officers placed her handcuffs and brought her to the Maryland state detention center. She was later transferred to a jail in Massachusetts. There, she was held until November 13, 2008. At that time, she was permitted to leave the jail under a supervised release order.

The Procedure of the Case

After this ordeal, Ms. Santos filed a federal lawsuit against the officers and complained that they violated her Fourth Amendment rights. She also alleged that the officers violated her Equal Protection rights under the Fourteenth Amendment because, she argued, the officers only interrogated her due to their perception of her ethnicity, race, and/or national origin.

Ms. Santos's case was first decided by the U.S. District Court. The District Court dismissed her case because the court ruled that the officers did not violate her rights as she had alleged in her complaint. Ms. Santos then appealed the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals agreed with the outcome of the District Court's decision but for different reasons.

In the wake of the Court of Appeal's affirmation of the District Court, Ms. Santos has appealed her case to the Supreme Court.

The Rant

One of the many qualities that makes the Supreme Court special and different from other courts is that the Supreme Court justices are empowered to pick and choose which cases they want to review. If four justices vote to review a case then the case is added to the docket. We at ImmigRantings hope the Court will review Ms. Santos's case, and other immigration cases, in order to safeguard the rights of foreign nationals residing in the United States.

Additional Blog Posts

What Employers Should Know About Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, ImmigRantings, November 28, 2012

New Jersey is the Newest State to Offer In-State Tuition to Undocumented Students, ImmigRantings, January 23, 2014